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Overview of anxiety in youth and teens

Anxiety is a normal human emotion. However, when anxiety takes over, it can get in the way of everyday life. Anxiety is common in young people. One in five people will have signs of an anxiety disorder by the age of 19.

Many changes happen in the teenage years. These can include:

Anxiety is usually an appropriate response to new or difficult situations, such as starting a new school or school work and exams. For most young people, their anxieties go away or change as they get older and learn that the situations aren't as bad as they feared.

Excessive anxiety is more complicated and tends to cause more problems. Your teen has excessive anxiety if they keep being anxious despite reassurance. Sometimes their behaviour might change, such as avoiding situations to reduce the intensity of their feelings.

Causes of anxiety in youth and teens

Anxiety is more common in young people who have experienced:

Anxiety is also seen more often in young people who are Māori or Pacific, or who are LGBTI.

Other factors that can lead to excessive anxiety in a young person include:

Symptoms of anxiety in youth and teens

A young person with anxiety can have a wide range of symptoms. The symptoms can look like physical health issues, personality changes or challenging behaviour.

Physical symptoms of anxiety can include:

A young person with anxiety may also feel:

There may also be a change in behaviour, including:

Treatment for anxiety in youth

Treatment for anxiety in youth and teens depends on how severe the problem is. Many young people have mild symptoms that don't impact their daily life very much. They just need consistency from their parents and teachers and help to learn the skills to manage their fears and worries.

Other young people have more serious anxiety problems. They may need group courses, family therapy, or one-to-one therapy. For more information, see Getting help for my teen with anxiety.

Occasionally, medications are used to treat anxiety in young people. This is usually done in consultation with a specialist.

On the next page: Helping my teen with anxiety

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created December 2019.

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